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British Columbians called 911 more than 2M times last year and more expected this year

Click to play video: 'B.C. 911 operators warn of surge in summer calls' B.C. 911 operators warn of surge in summer calls
The agency that operates most of B.C.'s 911 is expecting calls to surge 12 per cent this summer, driven by the end of COVID-19 restrictions, the toxic illicit drug epidemic, and an ageing population. It has E-Comm - the 911 system operator - asking people to think before they dial. Kamil Karamli reports – Jun 27, 2022

B.C.’s emergency communications centre is reaching out to the public in an effort to remind people to use 911 responsibly.

E-Comm said it is anticipating one of the busiest summers on record for emergency services and first responders.

In 2021, British Columbians dialled 911 more than two million times, with nine out of 10 of the busiest days for 911 emergency services being recorded in that year, the company said. In the last quarter of 2021, call volumes were up 22 per cent compared with the year prior.

Click to play video: 'E-Comm urges British Columbians to use 911 responsibly' E-Comm urges British Columbians to use 911 responsibly
E-Comm urges British Columbians to use 911 responsibly – Jun 28, 2022

“Ahead of the traditionally busier summer months, E-Comm is concerned about the pattern of increasing call volumes and the demand and strain this will have on our staff and the first responders they support,” Jasmine Bradley, E-Comm executive director of communications and public affairs, said in a release. “We’re seeing some of the highest emergency call volumes we’ve experienced in our 23 years of service.”

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E-Comm warns about potential long waits for 911 calls during heat wave – Jul 28, 2021

E-Comm said it expects a further increase of 12 per cent in emergency calls this year.

Bradley said she expects increased call volumes, in part, due to this being the first summer without COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, events and travel, increased cellphone use, a growing and aging population, the illicit drug toxicity crisis, mental health challenges, and weather events like floods, fires and heat.

Read more: Equipment failure to blame for 911 outage in B.C. Southern Interior, says E-Comm

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B.C. 911 dispatcher releases top 10 nuisance calls of 2021 – Jan 8, 2022

E-comm said it’s important to remember that if 911 is busy, so too are police, fire and ambulance first responders.

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“With the end of COVID restrictions and the start of summer, Vancouver Police expect to see a surge of people coming to the city to enjoy our beaches, parks, shopping, and entertainment,” Sgt. Steve Addison with the Vancouver Police Department said in a release. “More people always bring more calls for police service, and we’ll continue to make public safety our top priority.”

Vancouver Fire Rescue Services also wants people to make sure smoke alarms are working, they use and charge lithium-ion battery-operated devices safely, and smoking material is disposed of correctly.

“If there is a serious medical emergency, we absolutely want you to call 911,” Brian Twaites, a paramedic specialist with BC Emergency Health Services, said in a release. “But if you have a less-urgent health issue, you can call 811 and get connected with a nurse or other professional at HealthLinkBC. That way, our highly-trained emergency medical dispatch staff and paramedics will be available for people who need their services the most.”

Click to play video: 'VPD concerned about soaring number of abandoned calls to non-emergency line' VPD concerned about soaring number of abandoned calls to non-emergency line
VPD concerned about soaring number of abandoned calls to non-emergency line – Apr 23, 2022

Five tips to remember as part of the new Help Us Help campaign:

  1. Think before you dial 911.
    To help determine if immediate action is required by police, fire or ambulance services, think of the following questions. If you answer yes to any, dial 911 immediately.

    • Is someone’s health at risk?
    • Is someone’s safety or property at risk right now?
    • Is a crime in progress?
  2.  Know your location, especially if you’re calling from a cellphone, so 911 call takers can direct first responders to find you quickly and easily.
  3.  Lock and store your cellphone when out for a jog, carrying it in your pocket or purse. Never save 911 to your phone as a contact, and turn your device on airplane mode if children are playing with it. This can help reduce pocket-dialed and misdialed 911 calls.
  4.  Don’t hang up. If you call 911 in error, please don’t hang up. When the call taker answers, let them know you dialed in error. This way, they won’t need to call you back to ensure you’re safe.
  5.  Help 911 call takers and dispatchers, along with first responders, by providing the information they need.

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